Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
A Coordinated Response to Conserving Riparian Habitat in the Central Valley
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approves Expansion of San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge

January 19, 2017

Contact(s):

Kim Forrest, kim_forrest@fws.gov, (209) 826-3508 ext. 116


San Joaquin River NWR entrance sign

San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge Credit: Rick Kimbal


SACRAMENTO, Calif.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today released a final plan authorizing the expansion of the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge by up to 10,738 acres. The expansion builds on three decades of success at the refuge by the Service and its partners, including implementation of the largest contiguous riparian restoration in California, which was funded entirely through grants.

The expansion area would link the refuge with the Grasslands Ecological Area, a 160,000-acre mosaic of Central Valley floor habitats located in the historic floodplain of the San Joaquin River. Together, this network of restored riparian corridors, freshwater marshes and alkali grassland is the result of decades of collaborative conservation involving private landowners, conservation organizations and State and federal agency partners. Maintaining connectivity between the remaining natural areas and minimizing further fragmentation is crucial to the long term viability of California’s natural heritage.

Over the past century, over 95 percent of riparian habitat in the Central Valley has been cleared for development. As this habitat has disappeared from much of the landscape, the populations of wildlife that depend on it have plummeted. The expansion of the refuge represents a milestone in conserving and restoring land to benefit riparian-dependent wildlife, including endangered species such as the riparian brush rabbit and least Bell’s vireo; and migratory birds such as yellow warbler, spotted towhee, black-headed grosbeak and common yellowthroat.

The draft Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment, released for public review in November 2012, evaluated two alternatives for expanding the refuge by protecting and restoring up to 16,561 acres along the San Joaquin River north and south of the existing lands. Based on feedback received, the Service selected the southern expansion alternative for implementation. All comments received are addressed and summarized in Appendix E of the final plan.

Now that the plan has been approved, the Service can begin working with willing and interested landowners to expand the refuge through acquisition of fee-title or conservation easements.

The acquisition and restoration process is expected to take decades.  The Service works strictly with willing sellers only and depends on funding availability to make purchases. Lands within the expansion area would not become part of the refuge unless their owners sell or donate them to the Service; the expansion has no impact on how landowners can use their land or to whom they can sell.

The National Wildlife Refuge System is the largest network of lands in the nation dedicated to wildlife conservation, with 565 national wildlife refuges–at least one refuge in every state–covering more than 150 million acres. A hundred years in the making, the refuge system is a network of habitats that benefits wildlife, provides unparalleled outdoor experiences for all Americans, and protects a healthy environment.

National wildlife refuges do not just provide a boost to wildlife. They are strong economic engines for local communities across the country. A 2015 national report, Banking on Nature, found that refuges pump $2.7 billion into the economy and support more than 39,000 jobs.

The plan and all related documents are available at:

https://www.fws.gov/cno/refugeprogram/Planning/sjrnwr-expansion.html


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit https://www.fws.gov/cno/ or connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.

 

                                                                                                                   -FWS-


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.